Available Now: NOS Tudor Black Bay and Pelagos State of Qatar
What is the perfect way to celebrate a great achievement? Whether it’s 25 years’ service to a company, a significant business achievement or just proclaiming how amazing something is; I can think of nothing better than the gift of a watch. There is a long tradition in the UK for employees to receive a gold watch for long service, often with an inscription on the case back. To truly go one step further, a company logo on the dial is extra special and if you are a ruler of a kingdom, how baller would it be to have your national emblem on the dial? Epic!
Since the 1960s, the House of Wilsdorf has allowed a certain level of customisation of its watches. Some of these watches have become hugely desirable, such as those Submariners and Sea-Dwellers with COMEX stamped on the dial. To be clear, these dive watches that were issued to divers working for pioneering dive company Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises (COMEX) are coveted due to the incredible feats that the wearers achieved and the dangerous missions on which the watches were worn; they are more than just a pretty stamped face! Other logo dials were ordered by the Sultan of Oman who had the ‘Khanjar’ logo printed on the dial of Sea-Dwellers, Daytonas and Day-Dates, amongst others, as gifts to military personnel and VIPs. And then there were companies who ordered more simple watches with the company logo on the dial for employees.
One of the most commonly ordered watches was the humble Air King. Seen as an entry level Rolex, it was the most affordable automatic watch in the catalogue and therefore commercially viable for ordering en masse by corporations. The ground-breaking 2008 Antiquorum ‘Revolution’ sale, a Rolex-themed auction that consisted entirely of Rolex sports models, featured a run of Air Kings that recognised the watch and its role in the evolution of the Rolex sports watch. As part of the Air King section, there were examples of watches that featured the logos of companies such as Winn Dixie (US Supermarket chain), Pool Intairdril (Libyan Oil Company) and Domino’s Pizza. It was also the era that a lot of Middle Eastern states commissioned dials with the logos on, which brings us to a pair of very cool Tudors…
2012 was an important year for many watch collectors, as it marked the beginning of an era when one could buy a Tudor Big Crown dive watch for under £2000! The Black Bay was, to this Rolex and Tudor lover, about as exciting as any watch launch could be. And the brand hasn’t stopped delivering knockout blow after knockout blow when it comes to watches in the Black Bay family and also in the Pelagos line. A professional dive watch equipped with a helium escape valve, dare I say, the Pelagos has more cool appeal than its older cousin the Rolex Sea-Dweller. In collector terms, it’s hard to make these watches even cooler – unless they have a classy and interesting custom feature!
Tudor has been quietly producing small runs watches for important clients for a few years now. I’ve written about a couple of killer examples over on tudorcollector.com. Two of the most well known were commissioned by the State of Qatar and there are examples of both Pelagos Black and Black Bays (there was also a Pelagos Blue for the Qatar Watch Club, a private collector community in Qatar, that was ordered through retailer Fifty One East). And what a difference a dial makes! The watches are in essence regular watches with factory printed dials that have the Arabic writing ‘STATE OF QATAR’ with the English translation beneath. Again to be clear, there are any number of customizers in the world who could create a commemorative dial, but the point of these watches is that Tudor did these in-house and so are therefore official pieces from the Maison. Does it get any cooler? I doubt it!